Should you find yourself in a long queue at a supermarket with only a handful of open till points — get used to it. It’s likely that the supermarket will not open more checkout points, and queues are here to stay. In their quest to cuts costs and manage overheads, SA’s supermarket chains are getting more rigorous with staff scheduling; they are employing the same number of people over a longer workday by splitting staff into morning and evening shifts. Sasfin senior equity analyst Alec Abraham says supermarkets have few options left in this steep economic downturn. Retailers are also buying the buildings their stores are in, he says, which protects them against costly spikes in rent. A rise in interest and VAT rates, along with a jump in the fuel price and below-inflation wage increases, has put retailers and their shoppers under huge pressure.

Debt is another issue consumers have to contend with. The ratio of household debt to disposable income stands at 71.3%, according to t...

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